Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BIG TRIP 2012 Day I don't know what!!: The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone!

Somehow I skipped some days in my posting, so here's the two days we spent at Grand Tetons National Park and Yellowstone! The photos of the mountains didn't turn out all that well, given that the haze of the Idaho wildfires had arrived with us in the park. I was hoping for butane-blue skies and crisp white snow against stark black rocks, but this is the best I got.

Li'l Nib was brave the whole time, knowing I'd protect him from bears, bison, and bugs:
We camped at the Gros Ventre Campgrounds and, though it was a bit cold, we had a good night there.

We also saw a few birds! Lifer Western Wood-pewee!
I wasn't sure on this ID but just got an email confirming from some local guys, so WOW! Note the dusky sides, the lack of eyering. 

Also present at the campground: Mountain Bluebird!
Totally awesome! We would end up seeing so many of these that we started joking, "trash bird!"

There was also this little flycatcher:

Note the bi-colored bill, the two thin wingbars, the VERY faint yellow belly, and the white spectacles. Is this a Dusky Flycatcher? My sources say YES! LIFER!

In the morning of Day 9, we had breakfast and kept hearing a high-pitched trilling noise and seeing hummingbirds racing through the air. The trilling gave them away: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds! The bird Gretchen and I had waited and waited to see in Texas in February! Turns out they were hitting some feeders at Moose Junction at the Dornan's cabins office:

While I was busy snapping photos of this male, an unexpected visitor showed up to nibble (gobble) on the cottonwoods!

HOLY MOLY -- LIFER MOOSE! As it says in all the park literature, I sllooowwwwllyyy backed away, but by the time I noticed him he was like ten feet away! I was half-terrified and half-thrilled! Someone shouted, "that's not someone's pet!" like I was the one who'd gotten all up in the moose's grill! I said, "Hey, HE came to ME!" and kept backing up. He finally stripped all the low branches bare and moved on, giving way to this lovely Rufous Hummingbird:

Sweet! I wish my focus had been better on these hummer shots, but they were in the shade and I was still a little terrified from the moose encounter, I think. Read: shaking!

We visited the Chapel of the Transfiguration to get a photo for a friend:
 This little chapel has quite a view from the window behind the sacristy:

And he wanted a photo take from inside the chapel, looking out the window. I felt a little funny about it, but I walked up (after genuflecting -- Catholic habit!) and took another right at the window:

Here again, the photos are diminished a bit by the smoky haze that covered the mountains. Still, it was an amazing view.

We went up to the lakes and walked a little at Jenny Lake:

 which was really pretty, if a little hazy.
I found this interesting rock (a little larger than a softball) with this formation on it:
I don't think it's a fossil, but who knows? Maybe the entire rock was a giant prehistoric snail? I resisted the temptation to collect said rock and we moved on.

We headed north after that, out of the park, and toward Yellowstone. Not a lot of birding happened at Yellowstone, but I did get photos of a Violet-green Swallow -- LIFER!

This is a horrible photo, shot almost straight up into the air of a partly cloudy sky, but note the white extending from under the chin to over the eyes: Violet-green Swallow!

Of course we saw Old Faithful, which was kind enough to erupt within five minutes of our arrival:
I got video too, but it's sideways because I flipped my camera. Fail.

Here's Nib and I at the sign:
I really dig the arrowhead NPS symbol, but I couldn't help feeling like it was a direct reflection of the fact that most of our western national parks are built on lands we stole from Native Americans. I was conflicted the whole trip about this fact.

Once at Yellowstone, we took the lower loop and went west/northwest, arriving at the Midway Geyser Basin. In a word, BEAUTIFUL:
The super-blue water is made that way by the bacteria in the water. Blue means it's SUPER hot, hotter than the other colors.

The Grand Prismatic Pool:
It's tough to do justice to this pool without being up in the air, which is how most of the online/postcard photos are taken. Still, it's a huge deep-blue pool surrounded by cooler orange. It's odd to think that hotter=blue and cooler=orange; seems counterintuitive, no?

Just an amazing place; steamy and beautiful and mind-boggling. So much heat!

Then we went to the Great Fountain Geyser, which we waited on for an hour:

Nearby Fountain Paint Pot, which erupted in the distance three times while we waited for the above geyser.

The whole time, I was wanting to see bubbling mud pools and smell sulphur! My prayers were answered when we hit the Artists' Paint Pots area:

This area was like being in a prehistoric landscape: steamy bubbling springs and bubbling mud pots and crazy-colored areas everywhere.

Amazing! Check out this video of a mud pot:
This time I kept the camera right! The sounds were so loud, as the earth bubbled up. It's hard not to remember all those shows I've seen about how Yellowstone is really just a giant supervolcano, waiting to erupt and destroy the entire western United States! We were in the caldera!

After this geology and vulcanology lesson, we drove out of the east exit of the park. By now it was getting late in the afternoon, and certain mammals were getting really active!
This guy was just walking up the hill, putting one hoof in front of the other and heading for a bison meeting.


LauraHinNJ said...

So jealous... especially for your life moose!

dguzman said...

Hey Laura! Thanks for dropping by!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Great photos!

Where I live there are three big national parks. And many native tribes. Never heard any of them complain about the parks - they mostly want their salmon!

dguzman said...

Rabbits' Guy--I imagine they wouldn't complain these days; it was too long and too long ago, I guess. I still felt funny about it.